Various artists: You Didn’t Think We Could Take It (Subsonics Tribute – Vol 2)
LP | DL
Gutter-glam garage rock trio Subsonics get the homage treatment on this fantastic compilation from Mandinga Records.
Always there are bands that ply their wares through the rock ‘n’ roll underground, influencing from within and building up a dedicated fanbase in the sweat-drenched clubs of the world. Subsonics are exactly that type of band. Led by Clay Reed, with his crooning Altantan drawl always sounding like an inebriated Lou Reed, over their long career the band have released eight albums of straight to the point scuzzy garage. Some of the many bands who have been whipped up their whirlwind have laid down an excellent tribute to them on this compilation.
I was introduced to the band around 2002 when a friend pushed their third album, Everything Is Falling Apart, into my hand. It was a time when the underground garage scene was rising once again and that stripped-back rough sound was everywhere. Through those years, I delved back to bands like The Sonics, ? And The Mysterians, The Chocolate Watchband, and soaked up bands like The Dirtbombs, my Sympathy For The Record Industry compilation forever on repeat. Subsonics fit neatly into that mould.
Here, from that album, we get a great cover of I Made You A Clown by Kid Congo Powers, ex-guitarist of bands such as The Gun Club and The Cramps. His rendition doubles down on the beefed-up scuzz, driving like an adrenalised Velvet Underground. Also from that album, The Oubliettes provide a wonderful version of Shady Side Of The Street, the song that really showed the band’s reverence for the flame lit in the darkness by Reed and Cale, a stomping version of Eyeball from Reptilians From Andromena, and a riotous rock ‘n’ roll take on I Didn’t Think You Could Take it by Sloks. But, as with any record like this, the charm comes when bands break away from the style and give the songs a twist. In that vein, the Casio electro groove of Disturbios’ See-Thru Ronda is a gem. With more than a third of the songs coming from Everything… though, it’s clear I wasn’t the only one drawn in by its charm back then.
From their first album, we get a faithful trash surf rendition of Red Roses by Colt Cobra and a wonderful slowed down desperate ballad of Do You Think I’m A Junkie by Black Mekon, which closes out the album. At the other end though, Ugly Sounds open it with a fantastic version of what might be Subsonics’ most well-known song I Can’t Get Out from their 2002 Slovenly album A Lot To Forget. Mexico’s Electric Shit deliver a cranked to the max version of Good Half Bad Half, retitled La Bondad La Maldad, from their sixth album Die Bobby Die. The compilation is completed with Bang Bang Babies running through Frankenstein in a proto-punk style with Mila Del Guercio on vocals, and The Mings cracking out a rocking Pretty Pills (both from Subsonics’ 1998 Get Hip album Follow Me Down).
If you’ve never had the chance to delve into the records of one of the best underground rock ‘n’ roll bands of our time, here it is. Mandinga Records have put together a great selection of cover versions on You Didn’t Think We Could Take It, the second volume. It’s good to see them expanding on the first tribute EP, released in 2019 with this full album.
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All words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.